SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

CITIZENSHIP

How many foreigners does Italy grant citizenship to?

Thinking of applying to become Italian? Here's how many other people do it each year, where they come from and how they qualify.

The Italian flag.
Acquiring Italian citizenship is the ultimate way to guarantee your future in Italy. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

All data referred to in this article comes from Istat, Italy’s national statistics office. It refers to people acquiring Italian citizenship who are resident in Italy.

How many people get Italian citizenship each year?

A total of 127,001 people were granted Italian citizenship in 2019, the last year for which official data is available. 

That’s a slight increase from 2018, when 112,523 people became Italian, but still considerably below 2017 (146,605) or 2016 (201,591), when the number of successful citizenship requests registered a spike.

Where do most ‘new Italians’ come from?

In 2019, like most years before it, the vast majority of people acquiring citizenship came from outside the European Union: 113,979 or roughly 90 percent. That’s what you’d expect, since people with EU passports already enjoy most of the same rights in Italy as Italians and therefore have less incentive to apply for citizenship.

The highest number of successful applications came from Albanians (26,033), followed by Moroccans (15,812), Brazilians (10,762), Romanians (10,201), North Macedonians (4,966), Indians (4,683), Moldovans (3,788), Ecuadoreans (3,041), Senegalese (2,869), Pakistanis (2,722) and Peruvians (2,685).

FOR MEMBERS: 

Citizens of Albania and Morocco have consistently made up the top two since at least 2012, with as many as 36,920 Albanians and 35,212 Moroccans gaining Italian citizenship when claims were at their height in 2016.

Meanwhile Brazil has seen successful citizenship requests increase more than sevenfold since 2012.

Other nationalities are far less likely to apply for Italian citizenship despite having a relatively large immigrant population in Italy: notably, less than 5 percent of Italy’s Chinese residents have acquired Italian citizenship, presumably because China does not permit dual nationality.

How do most people qualify for Italian citizenship?

In 2019, the most common way to acquire citizenship was either by descent (ius sanguinis, which allows those who can prove descent from at least one Italian ancestor to claim Italian citizenship), by birthplace (ius soli, which entitles people born and raised in Italy by non-Italian parents to claim Italian citizenship at age 18), or by parental transmission (the law that automatically transfers citizenship to the children of adults who acquire citizenship, provided they’re under 18 and living with them at the time).

Altogether 57,098 people qualified for Italian citizenship via one of these three routes in 2019, around 45 percent of the total.

Another 52,877 people (42 percent) qualified via residency in Italy, while 17,026 (13 percent) qualified by marriage to an Italian national.

READ ALSO:

While claims based on residency or birthplace/descent increased by around 13,000 and 8,000 respectively from the year before, claims from spouses of Italian nationals were down sharply by more than 7,000. In fact citizenship requests via this route were at their lowest last year since 2015; in every other year since 2012, they have been either around or above 20,000.

That may reflect a change in the law in late 2018 that allowed the Italian state to take up to four years to process requests for citizenship via marriage, where previously they had to be answered within two years or automatically granted after this point.

The new rules also abolish automatic consent after the deadline, as well as introducing a language test for people applying via marriage or residency.


Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP

Another notable trend is the rise in the number of people successfully claiming Italian citizenship by descent. In 2016, the year that Italy’s statistics office began tracking such claims, some 7,000 people gained citizenship this way; in 2017 it was over 8,200, in 2018 it reached 9,000, and in 2019 it was over 10,000.

The majority of ius sanguinis claims come from two countries: Brazil and Argentina, which between then accounted for nearly 96 percent of all citizenship by descent claims in 2019.

Where in Italy do most people get citizenship?

The region of Italy with the most successful citizenship claims in 2019 was Lombardy, which granted 31,437 requests. The region has topped the list for several years, reflecting the large numbers of foreigners who move there for work or study. 

Other regions where high numbers of people gained citizenship were Veneto (16,960), Emilia-Romagna (12,014), Piedmont (11,702) and Tuscany (11,139). While Lazio, the region of Rome, has a high foreign-born population, just 9,258 people took Italian citizenship there.

The regions handing out the fewest new citizenships, meanwhile, were Sardinia (677), Molise (504), Basilicata (418) and Valle d’Aosta (361).

READ ALSO: 

The further north you go, the more people base their claim on residency – reflecting the fact that the wealthy, industrial north has long attracted migrants looking for work.

In the south, meanwhile, and especially the regions of Calabria, Basilicata and Molise, the majority of citizenship claims were based on ancestry, the legacy of decades of emigration overseas from impoverished parts of southern Italy.

What else do we know about people who apply for citizenship in Italy?

They’re mainly women (66,890 in 2019 compared to 60,111 men), and they’re mainly young: the largest age group is under-20s, who accounted for 45,741 citizenships granted in 2019.

People aged 20-39 made up another 39,929, while 40- to 59-year-olds numbered 36,316. The number of people over 60 who acquired Italian citizenship was just 5,015.

A version of this article was first published in 2020.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Do you need to cancel your residency when leaving Italy?

How do you cancel your residency permit when leaving Italy - and do you even need to do so at all? The Local looks into the rules.

Reader question: Do you need to cancel your residency when leaving Italy?

Question: My partner and I are leaving Italy after several years of living here. Do we need to cancel our residency? If so, can you advise us on how to go about doing this?

Most people know that you need to register as a resident in Italy if spending more then 90 days in the country. But what should you do if you decide to leave?

Do foreign nationals need to deregister as a resident, and under which circumstances? And how do you go about doing cancelling your residency?

We asked the experts to talk us through when you should deregister as an Italian resident and the the steps involved in cancelling your Italian residency.

Should you bother cancelling your residency?

As is so often the case when it comes to complex bureaucratic questions, the answer is: it depends. Both on your personal circumstances and on the type of residency permit you hold.

If you’re relocating away from Italy permanently then deregistering as a resident and informing the authorities of your new address is a legal requirement – and you’d want to do so anyway, says Nicolò Bolla of the tax consultancy firm Accounting Bolla.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

On the other hand, if you’re moving away on a temporary basis, you’re not required to cancel your Italian residency.

“If, for instance, you undertake a two-year assignment somewhere, you can still remain a resident and benefit from all the coverage a resident has, such as healthcare,” Bolla explains.

You might want to hold on to your Italian residency in the short term if you're not sure whether the move will be permanent.
You might want to hold on to your Italian residency in the short term if you’re not sure whether the move will be permanent. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

There’s no official time limit for this – you could leave Italy for a number of years while maintaining your residency and then return to live in the country as if there had been no break.

That means that if you’re leaving Italy and aren’t sure whether you want to return, you might want to keep your residency status, at least in the short term (it’s possible to be legally resident in both Italy and another country).

Financial planning and property consultant Daniel Shillito warns: “you want to be sure if you’re leaving the country that it was a permanent decision, and that you weren’t aiming to come back to live – because if you do want to, it could be tricky and quite administrative.”

For British citizens in particular, he points out, “having an Italian residency these days is a valuable thing, it’s not easy to get again.”

This all applies to those with permanent or long-term residency.

If you have a temporary residence permit, you will no longer be considered resident in Italy as soon as it expires – so you may decide it’s not worth bothering to cancel your residency if it’s due to expire anyway shortly after you leave.

Why does it matter?

There are multiple factors to consider here, the biggest of which is taxes.

If you’re resident in Italy, you’re expected to pay taxes here. However, if you’re moving to a country with which Italy has a double taxation agreement or dual tax treaty, you’re protected from being taxed twice on the same income. Many states, including the UK, America, Australia and Canada, have dual taxation treaties with Italy. 

READ ALSO: Can second-home owners get an Italian residence permit?

If you’re moving to a country which doesn’t have a double tax agreement with Italy, on the other hand, you’ll be legally required pay the full amount of Italian tax on your income even if you spend very little time in Italy, so will almost certainly want to cancel your residency.

Even if you’re moving to a country that does have a dual tax treaty with Italy, you may still want to deregister as an Italian resident in order to avoid having to deal with the paperwork involved in proving you’re a dual resident whose tax obligations are limited.

There’s also a third category of emigrant: for those moving to a country on the EU’s tax haven blacklist, such as Panama, simply deregistering as an Italian resident won’t keep the tax authorities at bay. The burden of proof is on the individual to demonstrate they actually reside in the blacklist country and aren’t just trying to evade Italian taxes.

In these situations, Bolla advises clients to register as resident in an intermediate third country after leaving Italy and before moving to the blacklisted country in order to avoid the extra bureaucracy.

READ ALSO: What taxes do you need to pay if you own a second home in Italy?

Do you need to cancel your residency when leaving Italy?

There are multiple factors to consider when deciding whether to cancel your Italian residency. Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP.

Other considerations

Besides where you pay your income tax, you’ll want to consider other factors such as official correspondence, tax breaks, and timeframes for residency-based citizenship applications, Bolla says.

If you maintain Italian residency, the authorities will expect to be able to reach you at your registered address, including for things like traffic fines or notifications of tax audits. If you no longer have any link to that address and no one to forward your correspondence on to you, you could end up in a sticky legal situation.

It’s also worth taking into account the fact that new Italian residents can access certain tax breaks that aren’t available to people who’ve lived here for a while. If you cancel your residency and then return to Italy at a later date, you’ll be eligible for those incentives in a way that you wouldn’t be if you’d kept your residency.

On the other hand, Bolla notes, maintaining Italian residency could work in favour of those interested in pursuing citizenship through residency.

An individual must be continuously resident in Italy for 10 years before they can apply for Italian citizenship based on their long-term residence status.

In theory, maintaining your Italian residency while you’re temporarily abroad could mean that period still counts towards towards those ten years and you won’t have to restart the clock on your return – though it’s important to consult a professional if you’re considering this option.

How can you go about cancelling your residency?

There’s no standardised national protocol for cancelling your residency. Instead, you’ll need to contact the comune, or town hall, you’re registered with to inform them of the change and ask them what you need to do.

The process could be as simple as sending a few emails, without even having to set foot in the building. There may also be a form to fill out. Because things vary from one municipality to another, you’ll need to contact your local comune to find out exactly what’s required.

Generally the process can only be completed after, not before, leaving the country, because you’ll need to provide your new address and possibly supporting documentation proving that you’re now resident elsewhere.

“You say me and my family – and then you list all the members – are no longer residing in your town, please deregister us, and our new address is (e.g.) 123, Fifth Avenue, New York,” says Bolla.

If you have a Spid (Sistema Pubblico di Identità Digitale or ‘Public Digital Identity System’) electronic ID, Bolla notes, in many towns and cities (such as Milan), the process can be completed online through the comune‘s website.

You should expect to receive confirmation that you and your dependents have been deregistered as Italian residents, so it’s worth following up until you receive this.

READ ALSO: How to use your Italian ID card to access official services online

Shillito advises using a PEC (Posta Elettronica Certificata, or Electronic Certified Mail) email account if you have one when communicating with your comune about deregistering. 

Messages sent between PEC accounts are certified with a date and time stamp to show when you sent them and when they were received, with a record of receipt automatically emailed to you as an attachment. Within in Italy they have the same legal value as a physical lettera raccomandata (registered letter).

“That secure email communication is official, you’ve got a receipt showing it’s been received,” says Shillito.

“That way you’ve got evidence and a record that you’ve communicated it to them, in case anything went wrong in the future and the Italian government decided to claim you were still living in Italy.”

SHOW COMMENTS